New ambulance standards announced

New standards focus on ensuring patients get rapid life-changing care rather than simply “stopping the clock”

North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NEAS) has welcomed the introduction of new system of national ambulance response standards aimed to ensure the most appropriate response is sent to a patient rather than the fastest one.

Following the world’s largest clinical ambulance trial, NHS England has today (Thursday, 13 July) announced a redesign of the ambulance service standards, which focuses on ensuring patients get rapid life-changing care rather than simply “stopping the clock”.

The standards, which were announced by NHS England today, (13 July 2017), will be rolled out over the coming months and are designed to ensure that the most suitable high-quality response is delivered to every patient in an appropriate clinical timeframe.

You can read more about the new standards here

Welcoming the announcement, NEAS chief operating officer Paul Liversidge said: “Like all other ambulance services in the country, we have struggled to achieve our response times against a rising demand and shortage of paramedics. The way we operate needed to change to respond to these modern-days demands. These new standards will ensure we are still able to get to those patients who need an ambulance quickest while also helping others who don’t necessarily benefit from an eight minute response.

“This also means we can avoid sending more than one vehicle to a patient and better direct patients to alternative healthcare providers where it is safe and appropriate to do so. It will take time to adapt our workforce and fleet to meet these new standards, but our early adoption of giving our call handlers more time to assess each patient has improved our response to immediate life threatening calls and increased the number of people who are given treatment advice over the phone without the need for an ambulance.”

Call handlers will change the way they assess cases and will have slightly more time to decide the most appropriate clinical response. As a result cardiac arrest patients can be identified quicker than ever before, with evidence showing this could save up to 250 lives every year.

For the first time response targets will apply to every single patient, not just those in immediate need.  

So, in future there will be four categories of call:

  • Category one is for calls about people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. These will be responded to in an average time of seven minutes.
  • Category two is for emergency calls. These will be responded to in an average time of 18 minutes.
  • Category three is for urgent calls. In some instances you may be treated by ambulance staff in your own home. These types of calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 120 minutes.
  • Category four is for less urgent calls. In some instances you may be given advice over the telephone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist. These less urgent calls will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 180 minutes.

The new targets will remove “hidden” and long waits suffered by millions of patients, including reducing lengthy waits for the frail and elderly. The new system is backed by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Stroke Association and the British Heart Foundation amongst others. 

An easy to read explanation of the changes is available to read here.

More information is available on the NHS England website here:

https://www.england.nhs.uk/urgent-emergency-care/arp/

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